The ruins of Caracol (Snail) are located in the Vaca Plateau of the Cayo District. Caracol Camp, adjacent to the ruins, is located at approximately Mile 46 of the Chiquibul Road which connects the Western Highway with the western slopes of the Maya Mountains.
Currently, Caracol is one of the more inaccessible sites in Belize during the rainy season, even though it provides one of the most scenic drives in Belize. Plans are underway to improve the access road.
Permission must be obtained from the Department of Archaeology, as well as the Forestry Department in Augustine, in order to visit Caracol. Because of the limited accessibility and the necessity for permits, it is advisable to use a reputable travel and tour operator or tour guide for your adventure.
Currently in the state of excavation and restoration Caracol is the largest known Maya center in Belize. The largest pyramid in Caracol, Canaa (Sky Place), rises 143 feet high, making it is the tallest man-made structure in all of Belize. Since Caracol is located in the Chiquibul Rain Forest, there is a plethora of flora and fauna to enhance the true beauty of this magnificent Maya center.
The ruins of Cerros (Maya Hills)are located on a peninsula overlooking Corozal Bay in the Corozal District. Just south of Corozal Town, the ruins are accessible by a short boat ride across the Bay. During the dry season, one can reach Cerros by road, passing the scenic villages of Chunox, Progresso, and Copper Bank and their beautiful lagoons.
Cerros was important as a trading center, during the late Preclassic Period. There are three large acropolises, dominating several plazas that are flanked by pyramidal structures. Altough two structures are known to possess facades of stucco masks, the masks have been covered to protect them from erosion.
With the tallest structure rising 72 feet high above the plaza, it is possible to enjoy a panoramic view of the Chetumal Bay, Corozal Town, and the mouth of the New River which leads to the ruins of Lamanai.
El Pilar ( Water Basin or Pila) is located in the southern part of the Cayo District, 12 miles northwest of San Ignacio close to the village of Bullet Tree Falls. El Pilar contains mostly unrestored structures. El Pilar is the largest center in the Belize River area; a nature and archeological reserve shared by Belize and Guatemala . El Pilar is well hidden beneath a filter of bough, leaf, vine and root. El Pilar encompasses more than 25 plazas over some 100 acres. El Pilar is now recognized as the second or third largest site in Belize .
Investigations at El Pilar have revealed more that a dozen large pyramids and a broad variety of elite compounds and other residential structures. Preservation of the jungle at El Pilar is considered as important as the archeology and clearing is done only to reveal select examples of architecture. A series of six trails takes you through El Pilar’s primary archeological centers and the tropical forest as well. El Pilar became an official national park in 1997 and has since been recognized by several worldwide conservation organizations.
The ruins of Lamanai, one of Belize’s largest ceremonial centers, are located on the banks of the 30 mile long New River Lagoon in North Central Belize. With one of the longest occupation spans in the Maya World, Lamanai was continuously occupied for over 3000 years.
The Lamanai Archaeological Reserve also contains a museum, the remnants of two 16th century Spanish churches and a colonial sugar mill that was established in 1860. Set in tropical forest and providing spectacular views from several of its large temples, Lamanai provides a unique experience in the culture of the Maya and the biological diversity of a tropical forest.
Lamanai is accessible by road, air, and river with the latter providing an unparalleled view of the natural history of North Central Belize.
Tikal – Greatest of all Classic Mayan Cities!
Parque Nacional Tikal is located in Guatemala, about 50 miles northwest of it’s border with Belize. In this remote area, one of the greatest civilizations of it’s time established a city that endured for centuries.
Set in the jungle canopy, the site today consists of over 3,000 buildings, including a handful of impressively tall temples that tower above the forest. At its peak some 1,500 years ago, Tikal was home to an estimated 100,000 Mayans.
As is the case with all Mayan sites, the origins of Tikal are only barely discernible. Findings of pottery dating from a few hundred years before Christ give evidence that Tikal was inhabited then. By the time of Christ, the Great Plaza had already taken its basic form, with platforms and stairways on the north side.
Tikal is a place for wondering, not only at the engineering accomplishments of the Maya, but at the jungle splendors of the Peten region in Guatemala. The site of Tikal is a national park where the native flora and fauna still flourish relatively undisturbed. In addition to it’s numerous well-excavated temples and pyramids, Tikal presents an excellent opportunity for animal- and bird-watching. Along the paths, spider and howler monkeys, gray foxes and red coatis are visible to the visitor.
Today, one can sit atop a pyramid, gaze at the Great Plaza and roof combs rising up from the sea of jungle and imagine the times more than a thousand years ago when the plaza was alive with activity and the city was surround by cultivated fields dotted with houses.
But one can do little more than imagine. There is no coherent history of Tikal and there may never be one. Bits and pieces of information are picked up from drawings on pottery and bone, finds of tools, similarities in artistic styles between Tikal and other Mayan and Non-Mayan centers, and the few glyphs that have been deciphered up to now.
Pusilha Mayan Site
A fully guided tour in a shuttle will take you less than 2 Miles to the Guatemalan border, this is one of the most remote of Belize’s Maya ruins, and consequently one of the most difficult to reach.
Pusilha wasn’t discovered until 1927. Pusilha has a unique feature which distinguishes it from all other known Mayan sites: stone abutments which once supported a bridge spanning the Pusilha Branch of the Moho River. Only Pusilha bridge was made of stone.
This Mayan Temple in the Cayo District is located opposite the Mopan River in San Jose Succotz. You will hike to the top of El Castillo, once the tallest structure in Belize until Canaa in Caracol was discovered, and enjoy a breath taking panoramic view of Belize and Guatemala. Included is a lesson about Mayan architecture and culture.